My experience with preconditioning

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grubbie

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The place where we market our calves will always ask if they have been preconditioned. We have never preconditioned our calves, we usually wean them on the trailer. Preconditioned calves have always brought a little more in the ring, but not enough to make it worth my while. This year, the difference in PC calves versus non PC calves is even greater, so I looked into it again. I still can't make the numbers work out in my favor. The money I spend on feed and shots is more than what I will make back in the ring. (We grow our own hay, but I still figure that feed is a cost.) Plus, if I also figure my labor in there, which I also feel is a cost, I am taking it in the shorts by preconditioning my calves. The only ones who really profit in my eyes, are the feedlots, as they get a healthier calf with minimal weight loss because they have been weaned already. And, they get a PC calf using my labor for free. Preconditioning works for some folks I guess, and Im certainly not saying anyone is wrong for doing it. But here, it is spending money so someone else can have a higher profit.
 

alacattleman

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it'll work when there's more pressure from competition... its the same here.but 90 percent of the calve's that go through southern sale barn aint even worked mojority of the males are still bulls . a motley crew of calves born through out the year
 

bigbull338

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thats like steering an dehorning.it takes labor todo those things.an i dont enough of a profit in it todo so.same as backgrounding.an if you figured in the cost of everything you did on a pre cows basis youd be $1000hd in the hole.
 

alacattleman

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bigbull338":pkmat0g9 said:
thats like steering an dehorning.it takes labor todo those things.an i dont enough of a profit in it todo so.same as backgrounding.an if you figured in the cost of everything you did on a pre cows basis youd be $1000hd in the hole.
actually thats a little extra money your not getting that you could be for the "cheap" expence you put into it,,,,, a cattleman could spend a few moments extra cutting a calf ,, the drugs,feed etc is your main expence
 

SRBeef

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bigbull338":33idf2q1 said:
thats like steering an dehorning.it takes labor todo those things.an i dont enough of a profit in it todo so.same as backgrounding.an if you figured in the cost of everything you did on a pre cows basis youd be $1000hd in the hole.

I guess I don't think there is a real significant cost involved - I run the whole herd through the corral and chute, one pass. The bull calves that were not cut in the spring are cut, they are poured and the vet gives them whatever shots he recommends (I don't recall the specific products). Then coming out of the chute the calves go to the right, the cows to the left and end up on opposite sides of a divider fence.

My vet's bill is under $15/head except add I think it was $5/head that need to be cut.

So let's say that for a maximum of $20/ head they are castrated, have their vaccinations/shots, and are weaned. With the fenceline weaning possibly with just one hot wire between the calves and cows (as Dun showed in an earlier post) you now have "preconditioned" calves, or at least you will in about 30 days. The cut calves are healed, they are weaned, they can be "bunk broke" .... although I would keep them mostly on grass and hay with some grain so as not to introduce too much of a feed change at one time.

There is not much extra labor nor feed involved from what you would be doing anyway - just one pass through the chute...

I would hazard a guess in that you will have a pretty good return on that $20. investment! Even adding $5 or $10 labor per head through the chute maybe your additional cost is $30/head or on a 6 wt calf, 5 CENTS a lb. That calf should easily bring 5 cents more and on more weight in 30-60 days. Seems like buyers are looking more for heavier calves these days, less feed on their part, if I recall. With the shots and weaning, there should be almost zero losses/sickness during this weaning to delayed sale period.

I think preconditioning makes sense from a variety of view points.
 

nagwag

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You will get a better return on your pre-conditioned calves if you can market them yourself to a buyer and not have to use the sale barn. My neighbor and I pool our calves together in one location - wean and vaccinate the calves together and share all the feed and labor costs. We then sell the calves to a local feed lot for a premium. He gets a load of pre-conditioned calves that he knows the source and he has a say in what he would like for breeding (for carcass quality) and the vaccination program. It is a win - win for everyone. :) :D
 

alacattleman

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nagwag":3t7hnspr said:
You will get a better return on your pre-conditioned calves if you can market them yourself to a buyer and not have to use the sale barn. My neighbor and I pool our calves together in one location - wean and vaccinate the calves together and share all the feed and labor costs. We then sell the calves to a local feed lot for a premium. He gets a load of pre-conditioned calves that he knows the source and he has a say in what he would like for breeding (for carcass quality) and the vaccination program. It is a win - win for everyone. :) :D
that works great,,, around here you'd have too run the wheels off your truck too find 2 that operated the same are be willing to
 
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grubbie

grubbie

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As far as steering/ dehorning, we use polled bulls on the main herd so no horns. We castrate the same time we brand, and give a 7 way shot. We have no vet expense at all (normally) unless we have a calf we can't pull and have to haul it in for a c-section. As far as marketing to an individual, I guess I wouldnt even know how to start. Time is such a precious commodity when there is only two of us, and we also both work full time jobs. Preconditioning calves is going to have to pay quite a bit more before it is worth my time to try it, in this particular area anyway.
 

TheBullLady

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I have to agree with you.. we've not been able to make the extra expense / labor work make up the difference in price. None of the local barns around here even ask.
 

1982vett

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SRBeef, Some other points to consider. 45-60 days of less than average weight gain (if any at all) You already mentioned little risk of sickness or death in the time period, but it still remains. Making up that loss depends on the size of your operation which I believe also contributes to profitable preconditioning. The statement that not much extra labor nor feed is involved from what you are going to do anyway... 45 days x just 25 cents a day extra in feed is $11.35 that needs to be recouped (don't think you can get just grass for that and still no labor involved). Just trying to keep this example around your estimated $30 preconditioning expense. We will even leave out the reduced carrying capacity of your operation in order to make room for the animals to precondition.

Result I see is you need almost a 2 pound a day weight gain @ your 5 cent premium to essentially break even. The way I see it, Risk - Reward is still wean them on the trailer on the way to the sale. I wouldn't object to preconditioning if the reward was obvious. Since the drought, lower calf prices, recent rains and such, I have put some thought into this. Testing the water with a group of heifers right now. But the reward for preconditioning needs to be considerably more than a few cents a pound. I have watched some of the preconditioned sales and it is not immediately apparent that a premium is being paid and it will take a lot of time and a lot of calves to make up for just one that dies, gets injured or sick when it is still in your pen.

SRBeef":235v9ges said:
bigbull338":235v9ges said:
thats like steering an dehorning.it takes labor todo those things.an i dont enough of a profit in it todo so.same as backgrounding.an if you figured in the cost of everything you did on a pre cows basis youd be $1000hd in the hole.

I guess I don't think there is a real significant cost involved - I run the whole herd through the corral and chute, one pass. The bull calves that were not cut in the spring are cut, they are poured and the vet gives them whatever shots he recommends (I don't recall the specific products). Then coming out of the chute the calves go to the right, the cows to the left and end up on opposite sides of a divider fence.

My vet's bill is under $15/head except add I think it was $5/head that need to be cut.

So let's say that for a maximum of $20/ head they are castrated, have their vaccinations/shots, and are weaned. With the fenceline weaning possibly with just one hot wire between the calves and cows (as Dun showed in an earlier post) you now have "preconditioned" calves, or at least you will in about 30 days. The cut calves are healed, they are weaned, they can be "bunk broke" .... although I would keep them mostly on grass and hay with some grain so as not to introduce too much of a feed change at one time.

There is not much extra labor nor feed involved from what you would be doing anyway - just one pass through the chute...

I would hazard a guess in that you will have a pretty good return on that $20. investment! Even adding $5 or $10 labor per head through the chute maybe your additional cost is $30/head or on a 6 wt calf, 5 CENTS a lb. That calf should easily bring 5 cents more and on more weight in 30-60 days. Seems like buyers are looking more for heavier calves these days, less feed on their part, if I recall. With the shots and weaning, there should be almost zero losses/sickness during this weaning to delayed sale period.

I think preconditioning makes sense from a variety of view points.

If you can get the weight gain to make preconditioning pay for itself and a nice profit, that is the way to go. For the most part, I don't think it is economical for everyone to try to do it. I, for one, can't make the numbers work to my advantage.
 

dun

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1982vett":1pj34zx7 said:
But the reward for preconditioning needs to be considerably more than a few cents a pound.

That extra 6 -10 cents a pound is also based on more pounds, that has to be thrown into the equation also.
MO has a program that helps get producers together of similar types of cattle. We comongle multiple herds precondition and backgorund them then market them in potload lots directly to the feedlots. Some years it's a wash but usually we make a little more then we would if we sold them direct without any preconditioning. What it has done for us to build a clientele of buyers that bid pretty vigorously for the calves since they are now a known product.
 

3waycross

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Around here it's pretty simple; unless you have a potload yu will get nothing more for all that time and money. Period.

The buyers I talk to say that unless they are all going to be shipped together then they will all be vacc'd again anyway and treated like they were just weaned the day before.
 

options

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vette

Cost of feed should never be an expense. If you cannot get a 100% return on investment for the feed you put into a five or six weight calf you are doing something very wrong. You are selling a pound of calf for $1.15, if you spent $1.15 for the feed that produced that pound of calf the problem isn't preconditioning it may be management.
 

1982vett

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dun":3dd01oy1 said:
1982vett":3dd01oy1 said:
But the reward for preconditioning needs to be considerably more than a few cents a pound.

That extra 6 -10 cents a pound is also based on more pounds, that has to be thrown into the equation also.
MO has a program that helps get producers together of similar types of cattle. We comongle multiple herds precondition and backgorund them then market them in potload lots directly to the feedlots. Some years it's a wash but usually we make a little more then we would if we sold them direct without any preconditioning. What it has done for us to build a clientele of buyers that bid pretty vigorously for the calves since they are now a known product.

1982vett":3dd01oy1 said:
Result I see is you need almost a 2 pound a day weight gain @ your 5 cent premium to essentially break even.


I can agree that the local market is probably the major contibutor to making preconditioning risks pay off.
 

1982vett

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options":x27ajlku said:
vette

Cost of feed should never be an expense. If you cannot get a 100% return on investment for the feed you put into a five or six weight calf you are doing something very wrong. You are selling a pound of calf for $1.15, if you spent $1.15 for the feed that produced that pound of calf the problem isn't preconditioning it may be management.

Cost of feed is always and expense. In a time frame of 45 days to precondition from weaning to sale I don't think you are going to consistently turn that feed cost into enough pounds of beef to pay for all the other risks involved. Now even Dun admits that sometimes it pays and sometimes it doesn't. Overall it works for him and some others, but I see quite a few post that share my sentiments.

Now I need to leave for a while to plant some winter pasture. ;-)
 

options

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Vette that is fine everyone is entitled to their opinion however using feed costs as an excuse not to do it is wrong 5 and 6 weight calves will always make money on feed conversion.
 

randiliana

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In this country, preconditioning rarely if ever pays. I've seen decent pre-conditioned calves sell for LESS than their fresh weaned counterparts.

First off, you have to figure it takes 4-6 WEEKS for that calf to come back to about the same weight that it was WHEN it was weaned. Been there, done that. Even fence line weaned calves lose a lot of weight at weaning time. During that time, that calf is eating 10-15 lbs of feed (hay, grain, pasture.....) that is a cost, when I consider I could have sold the calves at about the same weight for about the same dollar a month earlier. Add in cost of vaccinations, and treating any sick ones and it all adds up.

Just for easy figuring, lets take a 500 lb calf, it eats 15 lbs/day (thats 3%)
Hay is $.05/lb x 10 lb = $.50/day x 30 days = $15
Grain is $.06/lb x 5 lb = $.30/day x 30 days = $9
Vaccination = $3/dose, x 2 doses if you did it the RIGHT way = $6

So at this point, you are at $30 in inputs and that calf is going to still weigh around 500 lb.
At the beginning of the month I could have gotten 1.08/ lb = $540
Now, I NEED $570 or $1.14/lb

Even if that calf gained .5 lb/day and was 515 you would need to see $1.11 out of it just to recoup your basic expenses, not including any labour, antibiotics, or worse any death loss.

The only way, I see Preconditioning working is if you can get at least a .05 premium or if the market goes up during you PC period.

There are a lot of cattle in our country that are vaccinated prior to weaning, and that really doesn't pay either, at least, not overtly. There are a few producers that have had MAJOR problems with sick calves hitting the feedlot, and I can remember one where they were dying on the trucks, before they got there. Now for these guys, the vaccine pays, not because they get a premium for having done it, but because they DID NOT get docked for not having done it.....
 

Angus Cowman

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I guess I am doing something wrong as my calves don't shrink like you guys are saying I can consistently get 2lbs ADG on my calves from day 1 of weaning I weigh at weaning and again 21 days later and the past 3 yrs I have gained 1.6 -2.5lbs per day on the entire herd in that 21 day period

I guess I just ain't a very good manager because my calves don't shrink at weaning
 

AngusLimoX

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Probably a lot of "regionality" involved in this topic, like many others.

Around here there are a lot of pre conditioned sales. Special sales mean more buyers.
I haven't kept track of what trailer weaned calves bring but I know my calves are above average at the sales if not close to top, and they are sold as part of a VBP program.

I haven't pencilled it out, but as far as a basic business decision, cutting myself out of the PC market is a very undesireable option unless it could be shown to be too costly. I didn't say un profitable, just too costly.

And now that I am feeding out most of my own calves - well let me ask you - would you risk a $40,000 investment for the sake of a few $/head for vax?? I will be a cattle buyer and feeder either this year or next spring. They will be PC calves. I didn't vax my cow herd for 10 years to start bringing lower standard health care cattle onto the farm.
 
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